The first few hours of my day are typically predictable — breakfast, e-mails, small work tasks, exercise and scan the news. I listen to NPR and peruse MSNBC.com. Occasionally, I check out a few local sites and review my Google Reader for anything else of interest. But a newspaper hasn’t come to my house in years — why pay for something you can get for free, right?
And herein lies the problem. At some point, newspapers decided that CONTENT didn’t have value. Newsprint, ink, running the presses, delivering the paper — these had value because they had hard costs. The content’s value, though, was demeaned when news organizations began posting it online for free. And as newspapers begin to shut down, they absolutely must review their business model. Advertising alone isn’t enough to sustain. If you have a nonprofit, a la NPR, you have different options available to you. (I personally contribute to NPR because I value its content.)
A Harlingen, Texas newspaper, the Valley Morning Star (a Freedom Communications paper), has recognized this. Subscribers to the print edition will have free access to the online edition, but there is no more free online access. In a story in the paper explaining the changes, the paper’s publisher, Tyler Patton, said this: “The days of giving content away, which costs money to create and for which we charge our print subscribers, I think, are just over.”
Finally. But it’s not like online readers are getting ripped off. Online access will cost a mere 3.95/month.
Perhaps this is a shift in the way newspapers will be run — you can’t give away your product and expect to run a viable business for long. And the bottom line is this: If your content is good, people will pay for it. People will pay a premium for premium news products like the NYTimes or the Wall Street Journal. And if the product is poor, the same thing will happen as happens with any bad product — it will fail in the marketplace. And that’s OK.
Content has a value. And it’s exciting to see this recognized.